Mini-documentary about scientific study of the marine environment reveals presence of microplastics in sea creatures

On January 26, the Instituto Mar Urbano launched a video called “PlastiTox: A Multi-Integrated Approach to Assessing the Toxicity of Plastic Pollutants to Biota and Coastal Ecosystem Services,” as a result of a partnership with UNIRIO and OceanPact to present an unparalleled scientific study about levels of microplastics found in the ocean and in sea creatures off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

The PlastiTox video was launched in a live online event on the Instituto Mar Urbano’s YouTube channel, featuring UNIRIO researchers; the institute’s director, Ricardo Gomes; and OceanPact’s sustainability director, Fernando Borensztein. After that, the video was posted on all three institutions’ social media.

Over the course of three days, the expedition documented in PlastiTox collected samples in Guanabara Bay and around the Tijucas Islands, off the coast of the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca. The entire project was supported by OceanPact, which provided a manned vessel to help with the research and production of the mini-documentary.

According to marine biologist Raquel Neves, who coordinated the study, the aim of the work presented in PlastiTox was to understand the level of contamination and concentrations of microplastics off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. “In the second stage, we also tried to find microplastics in organisms, starting with invertebrates, in order to understand this transfer and the accumulation of plastic in the marine food chain. We mainly worked with sea urchins and mussels, which are already known as bioindicators of other pollutants,” she explains.

The study also addressed aspects related to the health of living organisms. A special net was used to filter particles in the water, including microplastics, which have already been found in human respiratory tracts. “Although plastic is completely dispersed in the environment, we are not sure what it can cause, either for us or for aquatic organisms. The best way forward is environmental awareness raising and education,” says biologist Ágatha Morais.